Posted on March 23, 2011 at 12:00 am
New from the ground up and One Ford for all the world markets (well, with the exception of North America), the new Ranger is another new product from the company that benefits from a truly global collaboration between Ford units all over the world. The collaboration, which was led by a team based in Australia, has produced a product that is said to meet the needs to customers in 180 markets and is among the developed to be among the forerunners in areas such as innovation, safety, fuel-efficiency, capability and interior comfort.
Though unveiled at the Sydney motorshow last year, the model is not yet on sale as Ford is progressively introducing it to the public in different regions. For ASEAN, where the model will be built in Thailand, it will be in showrooms within 12 months. It may seem unusual that the company is not beginning sales right after unveiling it – which would be the usual practice – but Ford’s strategy is to first provide lots of information to customers so they will be aware of this new model’s availability in the future when they are ready to buy a new vehicle.
“Many consumers now do a lot of research before they buy and they want to know more about a new product, so we’re using the time before an actual sales launch to give them as much information as possible. We’re not thinking in terms of getting new customers the moment we launch the new model but we’d like those who are thinking of buying one to know about what we’re going to offer and maybe get it on their shopping list later on,” said Dave Westerman, Regional Manager for the Asia-Pacific Emerging & Growth markets.
|The new Ranger is larger and has a sportier, more dynamic image compared to previous one (below)
According to Craig Metros, Chief Designer for the new Ranger, the styling still retains Ford’s DNA but is “21st Century Tough”. He said that during the concept stage, they considered a down-sized copy of the F-Series – which has been the best-selling truck in the US for decades – but clinic participants found its looks too ‘brutal’, so the designers had stuck to the look we are familiar with and added a sportier image to it.
Measuring 5359 mm long and 1850 mm wide, the new Ranger is definitely a larger vehicle than its predecessor. Mr. Metros said that apart from the physical dimensions being increased, the truck also has a clear sense of being bigger due to the increased surface area of body panels as a result of the beltline being raised.
Details of the platform are being kept for another ‘reveal’ but it has an all-new chassis frame, front and rear suspension (leafsprings) an d now gets a rack and pinion steering system for more precise handling and better on-road stability. The switch to this type of steering system has been made with due consideration to vehicle use and Gary Boes, who was involved in its engineering, gave assurance that it’s been suitably toughened to take rough terrain.
Key components have been positioned in areas where they are less likely to be damaged when the Ranger is driven over rough ground. Besides having a ground clearance of up to 241 mm, the driveline components are mounted above the frame rail so that items like the transfer case and oil pan are protected by strong crossmembers.
The Ranger comes with a standard 80-litre fuel tank and testing has shown a range capability of more than 1000 kms. All the engines have also been calibrated to meet the most stringent emission standards in the markets where the Ranger will be sold, which means the petrol engine should be able to comply with the new Euro5 standard in Europe.
The front end features a short overhang with the signature three-bar grille, a global Ford truck design cue. The windscreen has been raked back for a sportier and more dynamic silhouette while the traditional square form of the truck has been sculpted to a more modern and aerodynamic look. Larger headlamps, bigger mirrors and stamped-in wheel lips (instead of overt flared panels) provide an integrated look and contribute to an aggressive and sporty stance.
To improve the Ranger’s water-crossing capability, key electrical components and air inlets are strategically placed high in the engine compartment, enabling the pickup to go deeper (up to 800 mm deep water) than any other truck in its class, it is claimed.
Depending on the version, two new features will be offered which reflect the big technological leap of the new Ranger. One is Hill Launch Assist which will enable a fully-laden Ranger, which weighs about 3200 kgs, to stop and then pull away on a 60% slope. Not a feat easily achieved by all trucks, this should give Ranger drivers more confidence to overcome challenging terrain.
The second feature is one which is now found in many high-end SUVs – Hill Descent Control. This feature puts a ‘professional off-road driver’ in the cockpit to drive the vehicle down a slope safely. In the past, this required some skill in order to avoid skidding downhill but now, using wheel sensors, a computer can maintain the vehicle at a set speed without locking the brakes and without the need for the driver to apply the brakes.
The 4×4 drivetrain has a sturdy electronically-controlled transfer that allow drivers to shift between 4×2 and 4×4 anytime via a switch located on the console. There’s also either an electric locking rear differential or a limited slip rear differential in certain version.
As for engines, there will be three choices – two turbodiesels and, for the first time, a petrol engine. The turbodiesels comprises a 2.2-litre Ford Duratorq TDCi 4-cylinder unit with peak torque output of 375 Nm and power output of 110 kW (150 ps), and a new 3.2-litre Ford Duratorq TDCi 5-cylinder unit with a substantial 470 Nm of torque and 147 kW (200 ps) of power. The petrol engine, which is expected to be popular in Middle East markets, is a Duratec 4-cylinder engine with a displacement of 2.5 litres. It produces 226 Nm of torque and 122 kW (166 ps) of power.
The cabin of the new Ranger has been extensively redesigned and is not just a carry-over from the first generation. Drawing on all the feedback, especially the complaints, about rear passenger accommodation, the interior designers have enlarged the space available and also made entry points bigger. The claim is that the second is more spacious than key competitors, with best-in-class rear leg room and knee clearance. Three adults can fit in the second row of the Double Cab while two 6-footers can comfortably sit one behind the other.
As the pictures show, the dashboard design has a combination of flair and functionality. Chief Designer Metros said that inspiration was drawn from Casio’s G-Shock watches which he noted were very popular in Japan. The same theme as the watches can be seen around the centre console. And like the newer Ford models, the control pads on the steering wheel resemble those on game consoles with buttons on four sides.
Making full use of the more spacious interior, the has 23 storage spaces in the cabin – more practical stowage than any competitor. Its deep centre console bin is said to be the biggest in its class at 8.5 litres and can keep up to 6 cans of drinks cool (when fitted with a duct from the air-conditioner). The glove box is large enough to accommodate a 16-inch laptop while door pockets can comfortably fit 1.5-litre water bottles. There’s also storage for mobilephones and all the other gadgets that are now part of our life with a storage area hidden under the rear seats.
Where cool features are concerned, the new Ranger should be tops with Bluetooth/USB connectivity, radio Voice Control (like the Fiesta) and a rearview camera which has its image displayed on the inside mirror. Some versions will also have GPS route navigation displays. Of course, these items are class-leading today but it remains to be seen whether rivals will rush to incorporate them over the next 12 months before the new Ranger arrives in showrooms.
Designers also raised the beltline significantly, along with the rails of the load box, giving the Ranger a substantive presence on the road while increasing its functionality with the deeper box. The Regular Cab and the Super Cab have the biggest box volume in its class at 1.82 cubic metres and 1.45 cubic metres respectively while the Double Cab is among the top with 1.21 cubic metres.
In certain markets, the new Ranger will also have the Rear Access Panels which were first used in the 2002 Ranger. Sometimes referred to as ‘suicide doors’, the two rear side doors are hinged towards the back instead of the usual position at the B-pillar. This is more for the single-and-a-half cab configuration where the rear seat area is less important and the access doors make loading a bit more convenient.
The rear cargo deck has also been enlarged and for the Double Cab, it is claimed to be among the top in its class. Pockets above the wheel wells and along the side of the cargo bed allow owners to use timber inserts to carry full sheets of plasterboard or plywood. Depending on the market, a flexible cargo management system is available where attachment points can be moved along a rail, instead of fixed points on the body, so customers have greater choice when tying down a load.
Mr. Metros didn’t go into detail about the accessories developed for the new Ranger but said that his team has come up with many items which will be offered in future.
When the first Ranger was introduced, many Thai customers praised Ford for giving greater attention to occupant safety. At that time back in the mid-1990s, almost no trucks had airbags and safety features were minimal, perhaps because it was assumed that customers didn’t need them if they were used on the farm most of the time. But then again, hitting a tree or accidentally crashing into a ditch will still cause serious injuries so a truck also needs the same safety features as a car.
Ford maintains its strong concern for occupant safety with the new Ranger and has made sure its construction is engineered to meet tough crash tests and even offers side curtain airbags (the number of airbags will vary from market to market). There’s also a stability control system, Trailer Sway Control system and Adaptive Load Control. Roll-over Mitigation monitors the behaviour of the Ranger, particularly during cornering, and intervenes to restore stability if it is determined that the vehicle may tip over.
ABS with emergency brake assist will also be available and the ABS programming has Gravel Road Logic. This is important on loose surfaces as the programming for highway driving is not necessarily suited for loose, sandy surfaces. During hard emergency braking, the hazard lights will also come on automatically, alerting drivers behind so they can react faster.
The new Ranger will be progressively introduced in different countries over the next 12 months and the Malaysian launch will be sometime in early 2012. Ford has also announced that oer the next 5 years, it will introduce another 8 new models in the region.
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